Wednesday, May 28, 2008

halfway home

100! Incredibly, it's been that many days since the two of us embarked to fulfill this life size dream. While we're halfway home--and that's a nice thought--we also continue to wonder whether we're halfway to anywhere else. You know, whether we're making progress in our spiritual, relational, and personal pursuits. We like to believe so, and in that spirit we press on in our journey of the heart. Yesterday I was inspired by the following Arab proverb: "What comes from the lips reaches the ears, but what comes from the heart reaches the heart."

Greece has been an exercise in doing very little. With views of the Mediterannean below and sunshine that doesn't stop from above, we've been soaking up a week of the hottest May here in years. We've also been writing, reading, chatting, and eating way too many gyros. Yes, there is food for the stomach and food for the soul here in the Greek islands.

As we move on to Istanbul and approach our arrival into Amman, Jordan on June 5th, we're reminded of the many who step into our world by visiting us here on our blog and keeping in touch with us. We're thankful that our family, friends, and future are never far from us.

Friday, May 23, 2008

when in rome (and sorrento)

We wrapped up a week's worth of Italy with Dad and were sad to see him go; the time was sweet. He did some writing of his own, so we thought we'd share it below and let him tell a couple tales from Sorrento and Rome.

This morning we sleep a little longer. I spend the most relaxing morning of my life watching the boats pass, the flowers grow and the birdies fly. I read and relax. I think of Mary and feel her presence. I doze off and wake up drooling. It is good. Later, we shop, eat some lunch (pizza number 5). We jump the 2:30 boat to Capri. Once there, we rent our own Capri boat and circle the island, navigate an arch, savor the blue water of the Tyrrhenian Sea (still not the Mediterranean) and anchor for a swim. It is a memorable day. Back in Sorrento, we watch another sunset on the roof, listen to music and talk.

I wake early--kind of. I check on the car. OK good, still there and no ticket. What does that sign read? I shop a little, we eat a light breakfast. We head out and decide to buy tour bus tickets--you know, one of those jump on / jump off type. We see the Pantheon (eat lunch at McDonald's across the piazza), grab the bus to the Vatican and climb to the top of St Peter’s for some great views of Rome. We see the Sistine Chapel and I decide that either the early Romans had too much time and money on their hands or we have too little. This place is impressive, big and there are lots of tourists. And Wanida is taking just as many pictures as the rest of them. Hers are just more creative. No more Italian food. We eat at a fine Chinese restaurant on the other side of the apartment complex. They are not kidding when they say that Italians like their food. There are restaurants everywhere, and we are staying in a local neighborhood.

Back to just the two of us. It's sunny and splendid right now. We're basking on the picture perfect island of Santorini in Greece. It could be difficult to leave this place, so we may be here a while. Consider it an opportunity to catch a flight and catch up with us in person; pull up a chair and join us, sitting, perched above the sea.

Monday, May 12, 2008

family and the french riviera

On Friday we officially welcomed (with many hugs) my dad, as the three of us now venture together through the France/Italy leg of our trip. What a treat to share such experience with someone so dear. For four nights we've been living the high life on the ritzy French Riviera, soaking up the colors of Nice, and going big by trying to mix and mingle in rich and famous Monaco and Monte Carlo. Tomorrow we don our wings again as we catch a flight and puddle jump to Italy--Rome, Sorrento, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and a return to Rome.

As always, photos and stories are being added to our Picasa page. Hopefully you haven't missed the little pics link on the right side of this page, but just in case, click here too: pics on picasa

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

finding ourselves in barcelona

Spain is a country that makes it easy to relax. One is obliged to pose the question: Do people work here? I mean, they must, because everything is open and everyone is tending to his or her shop, but it doesn't take long to realize that each and every venue is open (and open late) to facilitate the enjoyment of life. Perhaps I've managed to avoid the business districts and corporate headquarters, because my eyes have surveyed only street entertainers, corner restaurants, patio cafes, backstreet bars, local markets, and picturesque parks. What's more, my heart and soul have surrendered to slowing down, stopping by, and just being instead of doing. In that time, I ask bigger questions and think deeper thoughts, and then, suddenly, I begin to believe that I have all the answers I need. Yes, I think I'll just remain in such a state of bliss for a little while longer, then tomorrow night we'll leave for France to meet up with my dad, and French people will start getting snooty at me for being an American, and I'll get frustrated too, and I'll forget all my life answers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

cheers and tears: granada, spain!

we rolled into granada on our high flying overnight bus ride, and crossed our fingers as we arrived to our "completely booked" hotel. she shook her head. we were nervous. she apologized for not having our room available... instead she offered us a key to a suite!!! she upgraded us!!! trying to compose ourselves, we giggled the whole way up to our grand suite. we could have invited a host of elephants, that's how much room we had. the enormous balcony, the bed, the two person jet bathtub, all of it... rocked!!! it took a lot to get us out of that room, and back onto the granada streets, exploring again. we explored; and we discovered a charming little spanish-arab town. the pride of this town is their 9th century Moorish (arab) palace, the Alhambra. like joe had mentioned, smart people get tickets in advance, not so smart people (like us), wake up really early and get in a line, hoping to be one of the lucky ones. that's exactly what we did the next day. we were prepared; we had a plan. we arranged for a 5:30am wake up call, and a 6:15am taxi to the Alhambra, ready to wait in line until the office opened at 8:30am. everything was set, until, instead of a wake up call, we got a call, "your taxi is here." the hotel had forgotten to write down our wake up call, and that's when our perfect plan began to unravel. we rushed rushed down to the taxi, only to be greeted by a waiting meter of $16. at 6:40am, our taxi delivered us to an Alhambra ticket office that held a crowd of people 2 football fields long. miserable. we climbed into our spot, and in the darkness of morning, we waited. anxiously, we waited, as the remaining 600 tickets could be sold out at any time! we could not believe how the story unfolded. it was 9:20am when the moment came, and we realized we were lucky number 601. not good folks. the guy right in front of us bought the very last ticket!!! ahhhhh.... the misery. we wallowed for some time, and then tried to gear up for their consolation prize... the Alhambra gardens. no one comes to granada just to see the gardens, but we did. :) in the end, we had to make the most of it. later in the day we found a market and treated ourselves to a sweet bottle of cheap sparkling wine and a bag of 10 plastic cups. as we sat at the foot of this fountain in a busy little square, we filled our two glasses to the rim and toasted to spain and all that lies ahead... including another overnight bus ride to barcelona!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

west side

We know, we know--where in the world have we been? Good question. We've definitely failed of late at keeping you in the loop. Our apologies if you feel like you're not getting your money's worth out of this, and sorry too if we're not better bloggers this month either. We made it to Europe last week, and this continent is expensive! Prices for internet will be no exception, we're figuring. Just a warning. Anyway, an update on us:

Going back in time a little bit, we wrapped up six weeks in Asia by continuing to explore the sights and sounds of Beijing, then last Wednesday we bid farewell to eastern culture as we followed our compass west. So, Portugal is where we've been, Portual is where we are--for now. Tonight we depart for Spain, perhaps Wanida's favorite country in the world, but our time here has also been a favorite. A best friend of Wanida's lives here near Lisbon with her husband and two young children, so for a week we've been babysitting (practicing for parenthood), catching up, sharing some good meals, walking by the water, and going on outings here and there. Last weekend we even joined them up north in Porto for surf camp! We don't surf though.

As we begin our trek back east across Europe toward Istanbul and, ultimately, Amman, I'm coming to terms with the fact that last minute travel through Europe on a budget is a logistical nightmare. Take tomorrow, for example. It's a holiday weekend in Spain (who knew), so we'll get to Granada (in which there are zero beds available) to see the Alhambra (for which they limit the number of daily visitors), and we can't find a place to sleep in the city or purchase advance tickets to see the attraction. We believe we've got a hotel just outside Granada, but I Skyped the front desk, and the woman's report of the room situation conflicts with what we booked on the internet. Nonetheless, we're showing up tomorrow with our reservation confirmation, then we're showing up early Saturday morning to buy Alhambra tickets. Admittedly, in the grand scheme of planning and preparing for this trip, Europe was a minor detail, but now it is not. Flights are expensive, Eurail and trains are expensive and a hassle, and gas--if we rented a car--is painfully expensive (converts to $8 or $9 a gallon, it does)! Start thinking old school, and I'll let you in on what we foresee for the future: tonight, a 12 hour bus ride from Lisbon to Granada (that's right, bus ride); tomorrow night, staying in Granada, hopefully sheltered from the elements; Saturday night, another 12 hour bus ride from Granada to Barcelona. Beyond that, life may be a little easier again. We'll spend probably four nights in Barcelona inventing teleportation before we use it as a new and creative way to get to Nice, France, where we're looking forward to meeting up with my dad next Friday. Watch the news for word of our scientific/travel achievement for the 21st century.